Hi. I browse and often post anonymously on this board and am in desperate need of suggestions / advice.
I have a child who is very passionate about, and, has demonstrated exceptional talent in, two different areas. I'll call them cricket and soccer. (Not really those, I'm big on anonymity but I'll use those). And this is not just a mum's rose-colored glasses view either - he has received so many awards and so much praise and from credible sources too. He loves both, wants a life in one or the other, and by everyone's account is talented enough to do this.
My child, M, 10yrs old, has the opportunity to commit 100% to an incredible opportunity in cricket, with a mentor who is willing to do everything he can for M, but only if 100% dedication and passion for cricket is there, as evidenced by giving up the soccer.
Sounds awesome. But, M also desperately loves the soccer and does not want to give it up. Yet his soccer coach is anti tall-poppy, treats him poorly, and in our town there are no other soccer coaches we could turn to that would provide opportunities like the cricket coach will. (We've tried and failed). Yet M loves soccer and the team. Desperately.
What sorts of things should we consider when making a decision? We know he'll get absolutely nowhere with this soccer coach, despite his passion and talent for it, because they are VERY anti tall-poppy. But he loves soccer. He also loves cricket.
Would you, as a parent, force the choice and have him give up soccer? He's completely torn and my preference is for him to give up the soccer and go to cricket where he'll be supported but I also know I am biased because I have frequent tears from the way his soccer coach treats him.
If you have any suggestions as to what sorts of things we should be taking into account to make this decision, I would love to hear them.
In your example the seasons are different so there would be no need too give one up. I would also question why a coach was requiring a 10 yo to give up an activity presuming it did not conflict with the other. Jeff Wilson managed rugby and cricket at National level.
If the activities conflict in time i.e. practises or concerts are at the same time then making a pro's and con's list is a good idea. Would include considerations of costs involved, future opportunities, etc. M should be involved in the consideration process and hopefully lead it.
I'm feeling awfully uneasy about a mentor requiring 100% of a 10 yo to the exclusion of other activities. Will M have to give up regular school for the opportunity?
I would not force the choice as it is not a war-stopper and forcing it will be resented by the child later. Guiding as to the pros and cons and hopefully M can make a decision that he is happy with.
Could it be that NEITHER situation is actually in the best interests of this particular child?
I guess the question is just how much confidence do you REALLY have in his talent .... do you have enough confidence in who and how he is for example to trust that he WILL shall and that somewhere along the line the RIGHT opportunity for HIM will come along? If it were me - thats where I would be putting my trust.
I would also question whose 'best interests' both "coaches" are seeking to serve .... it seems to me that BOTH see your son as an object to serve their OWN interests rather than being concerned with his overall wellbeing.
Thanks for the insightful comments. They've been very helpful already!
I *am* a little uneasy about the requirement to focus so exclusively so young....it's not like he's going to lose his talent, now is it? And he is very young.
I guess I was biased towards the 'cricket' because I've wanted him away from the 'soccer' coach for so long. (Not the soccer itself, just the coach). The cricket coach extends and nurtures him; the soccer coach holds him back.... But he loves the soccer.
Aggghhh. I guess we need to decide if the cricket coach is acting in his best interests by requiring him to give up something he loves (and we've made it quite clear that he loves the soccer too).
Have you heard of Long term Athlete Development (LTAD)? Dr Istvan Balyi set this up years ago and it is used and supported by most caching and sporting codes in the UK and Canada as well as Australia and elsewhere. Please google LTAD and you will see that the question you are asking is not the right one aged 10. For optimal elite athlete development to World/Olympic level, there are specific requirements of a training programme for particular ages, separate for gender.
I've copied you the relevant bits from the Canadian sports institute website below: This is relevant unless your sports are early onset e.g gymnastics or swimming
Learn to Train
Ages 9-12 in Boys & 8-11 in Girls
From ages 8-11 in girls and 9-12 in boys, to the onset of the growth spurt (usually around the ages of 11-12), children are ready to begin training according to more formalized methods, but the emphasis should still be on general sports skills suitable to a number of activities. While it is often tempting to over-develop “talent” at this age through excessive single sport training and competition (as well as early positioning in team sports), this can be very detrimental to later stages of development if the child is playing a late specialization sport: it promotes one-sided physical, technical, and tactical development and increases the likelihood of injury and burnout.
Objective: Learn overall sport skills.
This is the most important stage for the development of sport specific skills as it is a period of accelerated learning of coordination and fine motor control. It is also a time when children enjoy practicing skills they learn and seeing their own improvement.
It is still too early for specialization in late specialization sports. Although many children at this age will have developed a preference for one sport or another, for full athletic development they need to engage in a broad range of activities, playing at least 2-3 different sports.
While competition is important, it is learning to compete that should be the focus – not winning. For best long-term results 70% of time in the sport should be spent in practice, with only 30% of the time spent on competition.
This is an important time to work on flexibility.
Develop endurance through games and relays.
Things to think about:
This is the time to develop and refine all fundamental movement skills, and learn overall sport skills. The brain is nearing adult size and complexity and is capable of very refined skill performance. Late developers (those who enter puberty later than their peers) have an advantage when it comes to learning skills as the Learn to Train stage lasts longer for them.
By this age children have developed clear ideas about the sports they like and in which they feel they have success, and this should be encouraged. The focus should be on playing at least 2-3 sports in different seasons. Focusing only on one sport year round should be discouraged.
Physical Literacy Activites
Continue to encourage children to engage in unstructured physical play with their friends every day, regardless of the weather.
Enroll children in minor sport programs each season, and have them try different positions or events – they might find something they are very good at that was unexpected.
Encourage children to take every opportunity to play different sports at school, during physical education classes, intramurals or on school teams if their school has them.
Try to have children take part in some land-based, some water-based and some snow/ice based activities.
Keep children working on flexibility, speed, endurance and strength. For strength activities they should use their own body weight, Swiss balls or medicine balls – not heavy weights.
Keep sport and physical activity FUN.
the last sentence is by far the most important one - enjoy your sport - it is for lifelong participation and enjoyment after all.
I was a bit surprise by your "Gifted kids need and thrive in...." comment - my experience of gifted kids obviously differs because I found found what they need and what conditions they thrive in varies significantly from child to child as it does in gifted adults.